A Sanctuary For Your Writing in 2016

A Sanctuary For Your Writing in 2016


Why do you need a Sanctuary for Writing?


Writing will always be an act of courage and trust, faith and daring.  You sit down and face the blank page, or blank screen, and never know what will come out.  Years ago I had the privilege of hearing Pulitzer Prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky read his poems.  I will always remember something he said that evening.


I paraphrase it here:


“If you’ve been an airline pilot for 25 years, you step into the cockpit with some confidence that you know what you’re doing.  You’ve gained that confidence over the course of your career.  But as a poet, you sit down with your paper and pen after 25 years of writing poetry, and face the unknown.  You’re as vulnerable as the first time you ever wrote a poem. You have no idea, at this moment, if you can write a poem at all.”


Those words stayed with me because they validated something I’d felt.  Vulnerability is always present in the creative process.  You need your vulnerability intact, if you want to keep writing good poems  (or novels, screenplays, etc.)   And, it makes the creative process an inherently risky undertaking.


What Brodsky acknowledged is what causes many people to leave their creative calling, mid-way along the path.  To keep showing up at the blank page, you have to keep facing your vulnerability.   And really, who wants to do that when life is so challenging and full anyway?


And yet.  And yet.  If you’re called to write,  there will always be something missing if you don’t, no matter how many yoga classes and meditation retreats you go on.  It’s a particular practice, this call to creative expression, and it requires a particular brand of courage, to stay with it.


This awareness is what inspired me to create The Writer’s Sanctuary.  A Sanctuary Where Women’s Voices Rise and are Offered to the World as a Prayer.  A place to show up and be held in a sacred container so you can write, and heal whatever it is that keeps you from writing.


I’m immersed in the process of creating new groups to offer in January.  As I have conversations with so many of you,

I hear the request for

groups to support you in keeping the flow open;

groups to support you in writing your memoir and other projects-in-progress;

groups to support you moving through grief,

and groups to support you birthing your blog into the world.


All of these will be part of the Sanctuary.  Is there a kind of support you long for that I haven’t mentioned?  I’d love to know.  And now is the time when your input would make a big difference, because I’m implementing all your feedback as I create new structures to support you.


For me, the heart of this past year was creating a much stronger Sanctuary within myself, to honor my own writing.   Out of this deepening of my own work comes my call to deepen what I offer you.  Keep reading to hear more of my own story.


After my mother died in September 2014, I made a commitment to finish my Writing the Prayer of Your Life book.


In April, 2015, I had an unexpected call to go to Cleveland, Ohio, where I was born and raised, to be with my father, who was deeply affected by my mother’s death.


He had cared for her at home for 30 years after a cerebral aneurysm.  While I felt I had lost my mother forever after the aneurysm (a  blood vessel burst and her brain was damaged), my Dad never forgot his love for her.  Those months after she died were not easy for him.  My father, in his 90 years of life, had always been the rock, the steady one, taking care of everyone around him.  But now, it seemed like we might be losing him, sooner rather than later.


I ended up spending 8 months in Ohio.  My father didn’t need much physical care from me, but I was a presence in the house, and that made all the difference.  I stayed to work on my book, blessed that I have work that can be done from anywhere.  But I’d never wanted, or  been able, to stay in that house for any length of time and remain sane.  Stay connected to myself.


This time though, everything changed.  It turned out to be an opportunity to complete a lifetime of karma.   Working on my book, and healing my relationship with my mother, my father, and the little girl in me who wanted to be a writer from a very young age, and stopped writing when she got praise.


I stopped writing in that house.  I stopped other things too: playing the piano, swimming, being a straight A student on the honor roll. I started bingeing on sugar, as a way to protect the part of me that felt too vulnerable to live, let alone to write and be seen as a writer.


Becoming a writer has been all about learning how to care for that younger self who got so abandoned in that house.  Returning to the bedroom I lived in as a teenager, for the purpose of both being a presence for my father while he moved through his grief, and writing my book, allowed me to gather up parts of me and carry them forward, in the arms of the self I have become.


I also found my mother, in that house, as I cooked in her kitchen and used pots and bowls and baking dishes that she had not used for thirty years, ever since that aneurysm.  I remembered who she was, other than a woman who was constantly in and out of intensive care units….a mother who was not there for me, when I needed her.


I learned that even there, in my mother’s kitchen, I could be the mother to my most vulnerable self.  Practicing it there, I know I can do it anywhere, even if I am still imperfect in my self-mothering skills.


That skill: to hold the younger, often terrified parts of ourselves, in ways we were never held when we needed it, is the core of what will allow you to not abandon your own writing.  You can learn to do that,  so you can stay with your writing or your project, when it feels too hard to continue.  You can do that when you face the part of you that wants to stop you from doing anything you feel called to do.


You can heal your own wounded psyche, just by deciding to not give up on your writing.


Your soul calls you to grow, evolve, show up for what you really want, and then you take steps in that direction, and you have to face what’s on that path:  the part of you that got  left behind, who doesn’t believe she’s worth it, and is waiting for someone to care for her.


The one she’s waiting for is you.  Your own stronger self.  Your own true self.  The one who says yes, to the writing, yes, to the painting,  to sing at the open mic.  It’s not a sign to stop, when you face those scared parts of you who scream with all their might for you to stop…you might get killed, or worse, you might be seen!


It’s only a sign to love.  It sounds so simple, and in a way it is.  But in those moments where fear takes over your body, and you can’t take a deep breath, and are practically paralyzed with anxiety, this is the most courageous thing you can ever do: become present enough to the fear you’re feeling, and find the place in you that is large enough to hold it.
You learn to be the mother you probably never had.  A mother who is fierce in her protection of your dreams and aspirations, even when you have no proof that they’ll ever come to fruition.


It’s the choice to believe in your self, when you face the parts of you that feel it’s so much safer to quit, that allows you to keep going.


And most of us can’t do that alone.


So, the Sanctuary.  A workshop.  A group.  A teacher, a partner, a friend.  Someone outside of you who believes in you.  And can help you learn to believe in yourself.


One step at a time.


That’s the work I do in service of my own writing, day after day.  And that’s the work I encourage you to do.  I believe in the power of community to support us to become who we need to be.


And I’m so blessed by the communities that gather, every time I offer a group, or an opportunity to work privately with a dedicated writer.


You are the most brave, beautiful, gifted, intelligent women around.  For those of you who supported my fundraising campaign this year, my deepest and most humble gratitude.  The book is in progress, solidly in progress, even as it has been changed by my time in Cleveland.


For all of you I have had the privilege to assist over the years,  you inspire and motivate and help me become who I came here to be.


The Sanctuary, like every program I offer, exists to help gifted women, like you,  feel safe enough to get their most important writing done.


It’s no sign of weakness, to need a community and the support of an external structure, to stay connected to your writing.  It may be the wisest decision you ever make.


When people are struggling with an addiction, they know that a 12 step program is one of the most profound supports they can find.  It’s the power of the group.  When you want to strengthen your spiritual life, you seek a group.  “When two or more are gathered in my name…”


We are here to become ourselves, and we are here, now, in this pivotal, tremendously challenging and important time on earth,  to know our interconnection with each other.  We are all in this together.


Geese flying in formation get to their destination faster because of the uplift they provide each other.  Together, when we write, we form a circle of geese flying…a grove of aspen trees, whose roots are linked together…we follow the wisdom of nature and join together like a pod of dolphins, a tribe of women, writing together, honoring our vulnerability as our greatest strength.


You are part of my world and I am grateful.  Thank you for letting me be part of your world.  We need each other, to accomplish the great dreams our souls are calling us to bring forth.